Admittedly, the term “peel” is rather frightening.
Who in their right mind would want to do something to your skin that would make it PEEL? Nevermind PAY for it!
Well, ladies, that’s probably because it doesn’t make your face peel. I mean, think about it. Would thousands of women from around the globe be doing this if it really melted your face off like that guy from Indian Jones?
No. Some women will go to extreme lengths for beauty, but you don’t have to in order to get the skin-smoothing, firming, collagen-building results of a peel. So get that image of Samantha Jones from that notorious Sex & the City episode out of your head, and join me on a journey into the world of precious, perfectly pleasant peels. First things first…
What EXACTLY Do Peels Do?
A “peel” is a term for a skincare product that contains ingredients to dislodge and dissolve the dead skin cells on your face. Doing this not only makes your skin feel softer and smoother, but removing this layer of debris allows your other skincare products and ingredients to make better contact with your healthy skin cells. Your anti-aging actives are able to penetrate skin directly, and your moisturizing agents aren’t wasting their hydrating goodness on shriveled, lifeless cells. Hurray!
The removal of these dead cells also makes your skin appear brighter and more radiant. It can help clear pores, minimize acne, reduce the appearance of scarring from acne, treat dry skin, and firm. You’ll often hear about collagen when talking about peels. Peels exfoliate dead skin cells off of your face, which kicks your skin cells’ machinery into gear to create more, new, healthy cells. This increase in the rate of cellular turnover is said to make skin thicker, stronger, and boost the production of collagen in your cells. Collagen is a protein in your cells that helps maintain strength and structure.
Yes, it can be used in your lips to plump them up. It’s gotten a bit of a bad rap from that, but collagen is actually an essential protein component in our bodies that helps skin, cartilage, and joints. As we age, our collagen breaks down and our cells cannot produce as much of it as they were once able. Without this infrastructure, our skin sags, creases, and looks wrinkly. What dermatologists suspect, if that increasing cell renewal enhances collagen production, which helps firm and tighten loose skin. You don’t have to wait until your skin exhibits fine lines and wrinkles either. The sooner you start, the more prepared your skin will be to defend against collagen degradation.
What EXACTLY is IN Peels?
Yes…. BUT DON’T FREAK OUT. Acids can be good! Different peels from different companies have different types of acids in them to eat away those dead skin cells. Can they hurt your healthy skin? Well, yes, but that’s only if you’re A) sensitive, or B) leave it on longer than the instructions say. So no binge-watching of House of Cards while you do your face peel! If you’re skin is sensitive, or you just want to exfoliate in a more gentle way, you can try products that use fruit acids and enzymes instead of the traditional slew of acids. These usually work a little more gently. Peels can also have other added ingredients for anti-aging, firming, brightening etc. Acids are just the main ingredients in peels.
Breakdown of Acids and How They Work:
Alpha Hydroxy Acids:
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) are water-soluble acids that function by degrading the “glue” that holds cells together on the top-most layer of skin. By doing this, AHAs are able to free dead cells from the surface of your skin. This increases the rate of cell renewal, which can promote collagen production. AHAs are used to treat fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, rough texture, and skin elasticity issues. It can be used to help treat acne and blackheads, but you’ll see why another acid is often used for those types of skin concerns.
The smallest molecule of the acids in peels, glycolic acid is able to penetrate more deeply into skin and really attack fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots. It is a type of Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA).
This molecule is slightly bigger than glycolic acid, and it actually also acts as a humectant (meaning it hydrates skin by pulling in moisture from the environment).
Citric Acid, Malic Acid, Tartaric Acid
Beta Hydroxy Acids:
Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA) are oil-soluble, which means they can mix in oil. As a result, these are great for getting into pores and treating those with oily skin, acne, and blackhead issues.
Salicylic Acid (BHA):
If you’ve ever suffered from acne or know someone who has, you’ve probably heard of salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is the biggest of these three molecules, but it’s able to most effectively whisk away pore-clogging dead skin cells and globs of our skin’s natural oil, called sebum.
How Do I Use A Peel?
Lucky for you, peels come in a variety of forms from which you can choose! You can do them daily, a few times a week, or once a week. They come in pads, gels, sheets, and entire systems. Word to the wise, many peels can contain harmful alcohols that dry skin out. Read here about which alcohols are bad here, and check your ingredient list to see if the product you’re interested in passes the test. Companies often use alcohols, because they are cheap and dry down on the skin in a way that is fast and doesn’t leave skin feeling tacky. Sounds nice, but alcohol it actually very drying and can lead to more harm than good.
Now Let’s Dispel Some Misconceptions About Peels:
1. Peels cause skin to peel
No. Not if you use them correctly. If you leave a super strong peel on for marathon sesh of Game of Thrones on Netflix, then yeah, sure, your face will fall off.
Just kidding! You could really hurt your skin, though. So do as the directions say, and you’ll love the smooth, silky softness you get. Your pores will also instantly look smaller. Just saying.
2. You can’t use peels if you have sensitive skin.
You can, but you just have to be careful! Use formulas with larger molecules like lactic or salicylic acid. Use less-concentrated formulas, and use them less frequently than the directions say. Make sure to monitor your skin and take it slow. If your skin starts to get red, itchy, or irritated then STOP. You might need to try a different formula. It’s always a good idea to talk to your dermatologist first if you want to avoid any discomfort.
3. Peels will dry out dry skin.
I know it seems that way, but dry skin actually has a lot of dead skin cells creating a barrier that prevents your moisturizer from getting to your healthy cells. Indulging in an occasional peel can actually help your skin absorb and retain moisture.
4. Peels are only for old people.
First of all, um, rude. Second of all, peels are great for EVERYONE! Everyone can use a little radiance and skin balancing. Peels can help clear out congested pores, lighten dark spots from acne or the sun, and make skin feel less rough. It’s collagen-building abilities will also prepare more youthful skin for the days when its natural cellular mechanisms slow down and stop producing as much collagen. We’re all gonna get old one day, young lady, so prepare yourself accordingly!
Here is a list of different peels I recommend, beginning with light peels and moving to more intense ones:
First Aid Beauty – Facial Radiance Pads
- 60 pads for $30 (best bargain)
- One-step, treatment-soaked pads
- Daily or a few times a week
Peter Thomas Roth – Un-Wrinkle Peel Pads
- 60 pads for $45
- One-step, treatment-soaked pads
- Daily or a few times a week
Kate Somerville Exfolikate Gentle
- 2 oz tube for $65
- One-step face mask that you let sit and wash off
- No more than 3x a week (less if sensitive)
Kate Somerville Exfolikate
- 2 oz tube for $85
- One-step face mask that you let sit and then wash off
- Once or twice a week
- philosophy – Resurface: The Microdelivery Dual-Phase Peel
- One system $72
- Two-step system includes a scrub and a gel
- Once a week
Peter Thomas Roth – 40% Triple Acid Peel
- 12 treatments for $88
- one-step ampoule that you pour onto a pad and wipe all over face (keeps concentration active and free of bacteria)
- Once a week